The county’s initial look at the data from the program presented investigators with 289 leads, resulting in a success rate of 80 percent and the issuing of $5 million in liens that were processed at the end of June. A second batch of data provided 160 leads to investigators that so far has a 90 percent success rate.

Actual recovery of the money varies, however. Solis explained that in Florida, there is very little enforcement in collecting on the lien. While the lien sits on the property, making the property unable to be sold, the success rate for collection is about 50 percent. He added, however, that older liens — those from three years or further back — typically result in an 80 to 90 percent payment rate. That could be due to homeowners trying to clear the property’s title to sell their home.

Even though recouping fraudulent tax breaks from property homeowners isn’t a sure thing, the technology didn’t break the bank either. Solis said Miami-Dade County’s investment in GRM Insight was nominal, as the cost for using the technology is dependent on the county successfully recapturing money that the software identifies.

The basic agreement is that Manatron receives 10 percent of the penalties and interest assessed to the back taxes owed by a property owner, but only after the funds are recovered. The only caveat is if the property owner doesn’t pay within 30 months the county is still on the hook for the percentage owed to Manatron.

For example, if a property owner has back taxes of $10,000 due to an improper exemption claim, Florida law requires the county to impose a flat 50 percent penalty — bringing the total to $15,000 — plus an accrual of 15 percent interest for each year in question.

“In terms of cost to the county, there really is none because the taxes are going 100 percent back to each taxing authority,” Solis said. “So [the money goes] not just to the county, but the school board and cities as well. What the vendor recovers is 10 percent of the penalties and interest only.”

Brian Heaton  | 

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.